Kashmir a Bone in Modi’s Throat
To please or to, say, fool Prime Minister NarendraModi, Google Maps show Kashmir as part of India – as long as one views it from within the borders of India – but for people outside the country, the outlines of the region are shown in dotted lines, thus acknowledging Kashmir as a “disputed” territory, the Washington Post reported.
In one of its recent reports prepared for the US Congress, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) has opined that US President Donald Trump’s offer to mediate between India and Pakistan over the Kashmir dispute might have prompted New Delhi to annex the Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK). Trump’s statement that Modi had requested him to mediate between Pakistan and India on Kashmir had triggered a pandemonium in Indian parliament demanding explanation, thus forcing the Indian government to take such a step that could assure the parliament that Modi could have never made such an offer. “The episode may have contributed to India’s August moves” to annex Kashmir, CRS added. This however is only partially true because RSS-BJP has since long been harbouring this kind of action, the point was included in BJP’s party manifesto in run up to 2019 general elections.
CRS also noted that many in India disagree with the Modi government’s “blanket characterisations of the Kashmir conflict as an externally fomented terrorist.” They argue that such characterisations “obscure the legitimate grievances of the indigenous Muslim-majority populace,” the report added. Despite strong reaction from India, President Trump has not withdrawn his mediation offer; and the US State Department has stated that the Trump Administration “stands ready to assist.”
Currently, two resolutions are pending in the House of Representatives that question India’s Aug 5 decision to annex Kashmir. One of the resolutions was sponsored by Indian-American Congresswoman PramilaJayapal who also criticizes the Modi government’s anti-Muslim policies.
Taking notice of over 200-day long curfew in India-held Kashmir, United Nations secretary general Antonio Guterres on February 16 called upon India to ensure that the people of the occupied valley enjoyed the same fundamental rights and freedom of movement as being enjoyed by the people of Azad Kashmir. Speaking at a joint press conference with Foreign Minister Shah MehmoodQureshi in Islamabad, he called for resolution of the Kashmir dispute by honouring resolutions of the UN Security Council. The UN chief offered his role as a mediator and said his good offices could be used for this purpose. FM Qureshi drew the UN chief’s attention to the ongoing lockdown and communications blackout in occupied Kashmir and said that “all shades of Kashmiri opinions, barring the BJP mind-set, have rejected those actions”. He said the ceasefire violations along the Line of Control had increased since the events of Aug 5, 2019, when India abrogated occupied Kashmir’s special status.
Turkish President RecepTayyipErdogan during a joint session of Parliament in Islamabad, on February 14, reiterated his country’s support for Pakistan’s stance on the Kashmir issue. He likened Kashmir to Gallipoli. The Gallipoli campaign. The Turkish president said what had happened in Turkey all those years ago was being repeated in Indian occupied Kashmir today. “Today, the issue of Kashmir is as close to us as it is to you [Pakistanis],” he said, reiterating Turkey’s support for Kashmiris.
Referring to Kashmir multiple times in his address, Erdogan also said: “Our Kashmiri brothers and sisters have suffered from inconveniences for decades and these sufferings have become graver due to unilateral steps taken in recent times.
In a kneejerk, India summoned the Turkish ambassador on February 17 to lodge a diplomatic protest over President Erdogan’s remarks on occupied Kashmir and warned it would have a bearing on bilateral ties. India told Turkish envoy SakirOzkanTorunlar that Erdogan’s comments lacked any understanding of the history of the Kashmir dispute, the Indian foreign ministry said. “This recent episode is but one more example of a pattern of Turkey interfering in the internal affairs of other countries. India finds that completely unacceptable,” foreign ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar said.
Muslim-majority countries such as Turkey and Malaysia joined in calls for India to reconsider its actions in IOK. Indian government has put curbs on palm oil imports from Malaysia in retaliation and officials have said it is planning to cut some imports from Turkey as well.
In the meanwhile, a British lawmaker, known for raising voice for the oppressed people of Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IOJ&K), was deported from India on February 17. MP Debbie Abrahams, a Labour Party lawmaker who chairs a parliamentary group focused on Kashmir – All Party Parliamentary Group for Kashmir (APPG), was unable to clear customs after her valid Indian visa was rejected. The UK lawmaker has been critical of the Indian government’s move to revoke semi-autonomous status of the occupied valley.
President AJK SardarMasood invited UNSG Antonio Guterres to visit Azad Jammu and Kashmir. While meeting the UN chief at the Foreign Office in Islamabad on February 17. “Don’t take India’s ‘no’ for the use of good offices or diplomacy and dialogue in accordance with the United Nations’ Charter. This is a collective obligation for all nations. One UN member cannot hold the entire organisation hostage by its obduracy,” President Masood said while proposing Guterres to make the submission of the UNMOGIP reports to the UN Secretary General’s office and their circulation to all members of the UNSC mandatory.
To India’s chagrin, with the passage of time, international support for early resolution of Kashmir dispute in increasing, rather than fading. Kashmir has become a bone stuck in Modi’s throat, neither easy to swallow nor possible to retrace. Sooner or later Modi will have to return to Trump for mediation.